Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Links to useful open mic guides to Austin: is an excellent list of open mics in Austin – but double check the places still exist….

Austin Songwriters Group is not exactly an open mic directory, but a page of a group of songwriters who hold an open mic as well as other musical evenings, but it is a good reference. I tried finding their open mic, but had a hard time. Maybe if you’re in Austin you’ll find it more easily.

Austin Open Mic Musician Network is a Facebook page with some announcements for open mics in Austin, and it seems to be updated regularly….

Brad Spurgeon’s findings on Open Mics in Austin:

Austin likes to call itself the Live Music Capital of the World. My own feeling is that it is certainly the live music capital by square mile of the U.S., but I think there are other amazingly equally vibrant live music places in the world, like Istanbul. Whatever, the truth is, there is music everywhere in Austin. Of that there is no doubt. On the other hand, there are so many musicians and so many concerts of every level and in every kind of location, that the open mic scene itself does not necessarily profit by the musicality of Austin, in my experience so far after only two years’ brief visits. The city has so many locations for musicians to play, in other words, that it has less need of open mics as entertainment spots, and there are more places for musicians themselves to play. That said, Austin is a cornucopia of open mics! One open mic organizer told me that she thought there were five to 10 open mics on any given night in Austin. I think it might be a bit of an exaggeration, but there are certainly lots. My problem is that in the limited time I have been there, and with my job responsibilities, I have not played in that many. I have played in some places in Austin, like Rusty’s, that no longer exist. Strangely, this list has been reduced to the open mics of Monday night in Austin! This is just thanks to the nature of my recent visits, where I have played primarily on the Monday night, and after other open mics that existed on previous nights that I had attended either closed down, or moved to Monday! So here, then, are my findings on open mics in Austin:

Monday – Stompin Ground, 3801 South Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78704. A classic open mic in a neat bar well outside the center of town. The stage is well lit, high and has a nice feel to it as you overlook the listening area – which may be empty of listeners, as they may prefer to sit outside on the terrace and consult their computers or in the other bar area, just off to the side. If you play something really good or catchy, you might attract them back in, though…. All kinds of styles, lots of young and hip musicians – and others. Here was my story about my experience at Stompin Grounds. I have returned again since this original write up, and I found Stompin Grounds to be even worse in terms of people walking out when someone they do not know plays – but maybe they read my previous review and walked out because of that?!

Austin Songwriters Group, at Threadgill’s 301 W Riverside Dr, Austin, TX 78704, (512) 472-9304, sign up at 6:30 PM, music starts at 7 PM, 2 songs for the first 10 performers, one song after that, strict closing time for the open mic at 9:45 PM. I have written about my experience at the Austin Songwriters Group open mic at its previous location, but now that it has moved to the center of Austin, just off South Congress by the river, in this legendary location of Threadgill’s, it has become even better. And that’s saying a lot. The room is a classic old location for music in Austin, the walls are covered with performers and even scenes of the audience of the distant past. There’s a fabulous stage, half-decent sound system, good food and a large room. I can see why this venue lasted, and I can’t imagine a better home for the Austin Songwriters Group. Best to get there early to make sure you get two songs.

– B.D. Riley’s, 204 East 6th St., Austin, Texas 78701 +1 512-494-1335. Another classic open mic, but this time right in the center of town on the lively musical 6th street, and in a cavernous Irish pub. I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at this open mic, hosted by Johnny Fargo. The stage is at the front of the pub overlooking the picture window into the street – so you can play to the pedestrians as well as bar clients. In fact, that’s a good idea, since not many of the clients are really there for the open mic! Having said that, it is well attended and there is a nice sized pub audience. Here was my story about my experience at B.D. Riley’s open mic in Austin.

– Speakeasy, 412D Congress Ave in downtown Austin, Hosted by Ronnie on the rooftop of this building around the year – it apparently gets a little chilly during the winter! – this is a very cool open mic with a kind of “anything goes” feel to it, but with a good hosting job done by Ronnie, who occasionally sings his signature soul between acts…. The stage is a nice comfortable small thing in the middle of plants in the middle of the rooftop, under good spotlights and with a pretty good sound system. You kind of feel like The Beatles singing on the rooftop in London, “Let It Be.” Highly recommended, sign on the list fairly early as it seems to be usually three songs per artist, and it starts late – around 10 PM the night I did it. (I had done it a couple of previous times in previous years but when they had moved it to a neighbouring bar temporarily thanks to an event on the rooftop – i.e., even when they have something else happening, they hold the open mic they truly care about.)


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